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JAMIRBLAZE Posts: 1,771
6/23/13 7:54 P

I plan all of my meals for the week, basically, before I go shopping. Main dish and sides, if any. As well as fruit, yogurt, etc for snacks. and Skinny Taste are my main recipe sources. Then I make a list based on what I need. And then I buy just what I think I will eat. Yes, sometimes, I unexpectedly go out and end up with waste, but generally very little.

Good luck!

JULIERN06 SparkPoints: (4,351)
Fitness Minutes: (363)
Posts: 69
6/23/13 7:27 P

I was only referring to the part of the post that said she was throwing away a lot. And apparently it was helpful... no offense.

TINYRN2011 SparkPoints: (20,569)
Fitness Minutes: (22,710)
Posts: 106
6/23/13 6:53 P

Thanks for giving me the idea to try and cook one meal a week! I don't know why I've always thought that I had to cook EVERY meal!

AMYRYLE SparkPoints: (44,202)
Fitness Minutes: (34,713)
Posts: 102
6/22/13 11:15 P

I agree that meal planning is the best way to avoid a grocery trip disaster. Start with simple items that need no recipe. Here are some I use on busy nights when I can't fuss with a recipe.
1. taco salad: brown 1 lb. lean meat (beef, chicken, pork, shrimp) w/ taco seasoning. Put on plate full of lettuce w/ beans and all the veggies cup up you want. Use salsa as dressing. done.
2. spaghetti night: boil whole wheat noodles. Heat jar sauce, look for low sugar high veggie sauce. Add a garden salad and done.
3. hamburger night: use whole wheat buns or lettuce to wrap them. Cook hamburger pattie in skillet til cooked through (use lean burger, try turkey, frozen no-meat, whatever healthy burger patty sub you see in store). Add on veggies to burger, lettuce, tomato, etc. Have a side of fruit and some cole slaw (store bought to begin with and add extra cabbage and carrots that can be bought pre-shredded to reduce the store bought sauce) and your good to go. Later, try making the slaw yourself for even healthy version.
4. Fish and veggies: Lightly bread fish w/ breadcrumbs and bake or cook in no stick skillet w/ cooking spray. Steam bag of veggies in the microwave. Maybe add a side of whole grain like couscous (buy a box, boil water, dump couscous in boiling water, cover for 5 minutes off the heat and it's done- super simple).
I hope this gives you some starter meals that you can later adapt to make to your specific tastes. Keep trying and you'll get there; after all I used to ruin hotdogs when I first started cooking. Haha!

NIRERIN Posts: 14,236
6/22/13 5:33 P

i'd also advocate the barely change anything at all approach. pick one meal to make at home from scratch this week, buy the ingredients along with whatever else it is that you usually eat, and make it at some point this week. you don't need to be buying a whole week's worth of new food. one meal. that's it.
and if you really have no idea where to start cooking, head to the library. if you need basic cooking skills, start with books like starving students cookbooks, which are geared toward students living in dorms who don't know a sautee pan from a spatula. that will give you some basic skills to work with. then you can start checking out more complicated cookbooks to find authors or cuisines or types of cookbooks you like. , , magazines, msn, the internet is full of recipes. google what you want and poke around until you find something that looks good. try that one.
again, you want to start out making one new thing a week. if you can do that easy peasy, bring it up to two a week. and so forth until you find the right balance.
i am single and live alone, so these are some of the things that i have learned that help me not waste food. when you're just starting out or when you're wasting too much, you shouldn't be buying fresh. buy canned, frozen or dried because they will last longer. buy one or two servings of fresh to start out the week and supplement with the less perishable if you go through the fresh. if you do run through it in a day, by all means head back to the store to buy some more. but the more shelf stable stuff you can rely on while you're establishing how much fresh you can and will consume in a week, the less you waste on waste.
before something perishable goes into my basket, i have to be able to think of three things to use it in. so if i pick up a bag of carrots then i have to know that i have a head of lettuce in my fridge, a container or hummus in my fridge and a bag of frozen peas in my freezer that i can use with them. if i can't think of three things, it stays on the shelf until i know i can use it. it's less important with things like carrots, but for kohlrabi, fennel, berries, asparagus and other things that are highly perishable or unusual it's saved me a ton of money by not buying them and wasting them.
don't buy in bulk til you know you'll use up bulk. in other words, you may save 50 cents a pound if you buy apples in a 3lb bag rather than two apples at a time. but if you throw out half the apples in the bag, you didn't save any money. so buy your one or two apples and if you find yourself continually running back to the store for more apples, then start buying the 3lb bag.
try to make it a practice to check in your fridge once a day for what needs to be used up. then you can make plans for what you can do with the aforementioned ingredients. do it after breakfast, after dinner, pick a time and then stick to looking in your fridge for five minutes. make a note of the things that are going to need to be used up. if i were to look in my fridge right now i would see: 1/4 cup of black beans, 8 oz of sweet peppers, 1/2 cup cooked mushrooms, 2 yellow squash, a cupcake, goulash, baked potato cubes, krab, 1 cup wild rice and lentils, endive and ricotta. everything else can stay in my fridge for at least another week or two, but those things need to be used up. so based on that list this is what i would do today or tomorrow. i would start by taking some of the baked potato cubes, adding all the black beans, some of the mushrooms, a little bit of cheese and some salsa for a light lunch or decent snack. i'll chop up all of the raw peppers. about 3/4 i will put into a freezer safe container and freeze for later use. the remaining 1/4 i'll sautee, add the rest of the baked potato cubes, a few eggs and have tortilla for breakfast in the morning. the cupcake and goulash can be monday's lunch since they are the newest things in my fridge. i'll mix up the crab with some of the rice and lentil mixture, a little mayo and serve it in the endive. again, that will be a lunch or snack. i'll use up one of the squash with half of the ricotta, some pasta and pasta sauce, say for dinner tonight. the rest of the ricotta i will freeze for later use. the remaining rice and lentils i will have for dinner tomorrow with the last squash, some teriyaki sauce and whatever frozen vegetable i happen to grab from the freezer. it's all about learning what foods you like, how to prepare them and how to use up what you have. because i could also take a squash, sautee it, add the black beans, half the rice and lentil mixture, a little cheese and a little salsa and have dinner tonight. i could also mix the peppers, krab, mushrooms with some hot sauce and serve in the endive. i could pull down some broccoli from the freezer to add to the baked potato cubes with a little cheese. i could use the ricotta with pasta and pasta sauce, the squash, peppers and mushrooms. i could do tacos with krab, tacos with black beans, and tacos with mushrooms and peppers, endive being the lettuce for all. the fewer things you have to use up, the easier it is to use them up. as you learn how to use things up, you can get greater quantities of things to use up. and as you find more things that you can throw together, you can have more variety in there. but start small and work your way up to it rather than starting large and wasting. it's a really hard skill to learn. but it all starts with looking in to see what you have. the figuring out what is going to go bad. then actually following through and making it.
by the same token, don't buy twenty new spices to start out and twenty bottles of specialty sauces. buy one or two staple spices [like rosemary or basil] and one or two jars or sauces [pasta and teriyaki sauce for example] and rotate through them. as you get more experienced and find out what you like, you can increase what you keep on hand. but you don't want to have to deal with having barbecue sauce, orange sauce, teriyaki sauce, mirin, sweet pepper glaze, balsamic glaze, tamarind juice, lime juice, honey miso, remoulade sauce and five others all open in your fridge. it's fine to have a few in there, but try to use up the unusual ones so you haven't wasted your money on them. it may help to make a rule that you're only going to have four open at once, two staples and two specialty. so you have to use up what's open before you buy and try something new. and your basics like rosemary or teriyaki do well on everything [chicken, tofu, beef, pork, mushrooms, pasta, asparagus] so you always have something easy on hand, but you still have room to rotate through the new things to see if they should become staples or just stay an occasional thing.

LOUNMOUN Posts: 1,334
6/22/13 5:12 P

My advice is to come up with a list of healthy foods you like and do a limited meal plan. Don't try to make too many new recipes each week. Try to make or buy healthier versions of foods you like. Try to incorporate more whole grains, fruits or vegetables.

Most people I know do not eat something completely different every single day even if they like some variety. When you make a meal plan save it and reuse it. Once you have 3-6 weeks worth you can just rotate them instead of racking your brain every week to come up with something new.

I have 2 ways of menu planning. I shop weekly for both methods.
First method is I write down 7 different dinners. I try to use stuff we have on hand before buying new stuff. As I make meals I check them off my list. I make meals with foods that spoil fastest first.
Second way of planning for me is to write a list of 28 different dinners. I find this methods saves time and money. I will use that list of 28 meals for the month and then use it again for another month or 2 before making a new list. I shop for one week and cook every day but this method of planning would also allow you to shop for longer periods or cook in advance. Look up once a month cooking or freezer cooking.

I try to have 3 or 4 meatless meals per week and soup at least once per week. We use leftovers for lunches or freeze them.

I don't plan out lunch, breakfast or snacks because we eat the same simple foods all the time for those meals.
For breakfast we have things like cereal, oatmeal, fruit, yogurt, bagels, or leftovers. For lunch we have leftovers, soup, sandwiches, or salad. Snacks are usually cheese, fruit, vegetables, hummus, crackers, popcorn, or trail mix/granola.

I will only make something new once a week or every 2 weeks. Trying to make a new recipe every day is overwhelming and can be expensive if you have to get lots of ingredients you don't have already.

I keep a pad of paper in the kitchen and as we run out of things I add them to a grocery list. At the end of the week I look at the menu and complete my grocery list.

If you are feeding just yourself you might appreciate buying frozen fruits or vegetables as they do not spoil before you can use them. You can take out just what you need for a meal. You can also buy fresh fruits and vegetables and freeze them to reduce waste.

ANARIE Posts: 13,179
6/22/13 5:05 P

What is it about recipes that makes you feel overwhelmed? Is it the language they use-- not knowing exactly what "dice" means, for example? Or is it the ingredients lists?

Think about using children's cookbooks to start with. Some of them are really good at explaining things in words or visually. For example, if they wanted you to dice something, they would say "Cut the onion in pieces about the size of a kernel of corn, like this picture. This is called 'dicing.'" You could also almost certainly find a free or very inexpensive beginners' cooking class. Supermarket chains, hospitals, children's wellness organizations, and colleges are some examples of groups that tend to sponsor them. Check your supermarket's website. You're absolutely not the only person out there who doesn't know how to use recipes; they have a special language all their own. It's not hard to learn, but it does have to be learned. Like everything else, if you didn't learn it when you were a child, it's common to have a block against it as an adult. But using a recipe is just a specialized reading technique, like reading instruction manuals or poetry or scripts.

Also, is there a significant other in the household? If you hate shopping and cooking, can you trade? What if, for example, you take over all the car care, insurance decisions, and yard work and let your partner (or another adult, like a neighbor or nearby sibling) deal with meals? If there's a type of work that you hate and someone else doesn't, it only makes sense to switch.

MICHELLEXXXX SparkPoints: (12,109)
Fitness Minutes: (5,920)
Posts: 3,753
6/22/13 4:28 P

Have you ever considered joining a supportive group such as weight watchers or TOPS outside of cyber-space to provide more guidance and support in these early stages of your weight loss journey?

TOGEMON Posts: 247
6/22/13 4:27 P

If using recipes is overwhelming for you, maybe it would help you to practice on some easy ones! It's not like you have to make a complex recipe every night; just give yourself permission to start slow. I started out making just one recipe a week to help me learn, because I'd never cooked much. That way you can take time to plan it, like on a weekend. Find one that looks good, and sit down and make a list of the ingredients you'll need before you go to the store for the week or however long you shop for. Then pick the least stressful day of your week and give yourself plenty of time to make the recipe. Doing one recipe well always gives me a boost of confidence to make more!

Also you could do what some other posters have suggested and make healthy substitutions in the ingredients (whole grain pasta for white, etc.). Just working with one recipe at a time for a while can help you get the hang of it.

Just this week, my uncle brought us some fresh squash he'd grown. I'd never learned how to prepare it, so I asked my mom to tell me how she sauteed it with onions. I did what she said, and it turned out great... and now when I have squash in the future, I know what to do! :)

6/22/13 4:17 P

Here is my menu for tonight:

jerk chicken (grill the chicken breasts that have a little jerk seasoning sprinkled on them).
Sauted brussel sprouts in olive oil
cubed watermelon
Brown rice

Sit down once a week and plan your meals---look at what the store has on sale and work these into your weekly meals to help save money.

After you have the meals you plan to cook, you must determine what you need to buy from the store for the week. Write it on a piece of paper. From the menu above I had chicken breasts already in my freezer, I had the seasoning, I had the frozen brussel sprouts and brown rice already. I had to buy the watermelon.

Add to the paper anything else you have run out of and want to keep on hand. Or other food items that are on sale that you plan to use.

Take the list to the store and buy what is on the list. If it is not on the list then don't buy it.

Now you are ready every day with a meal plan, the recipe, the ingredients.


ANARIE Posts: 13,179
6/22/13 4:16 P

One other thing:
Once you start trying new things, give yourself permission not to like them. One of the most helpful things to me was a "new veggie challenge" on a message board (very similar to a SparkTeam, before I found SparkPeople) The rules were that once a week you had to try one new fruit/veggie or a completely different way of preparing a familiar one, you had to report to the team what you tried, AND you did NOT have to be positive about it. Understanding and accepting that it's not all going to be delicious helps you appreciate the things that are!

MARISSADREAMER SparkPoints: (139)
Fitness Minutes: (0)
Posts: 13
6/22/13 4:09 P

Actually I do like that idea of portioning. It gave me the idea of maybe having smaller packages of things so I am not overwhelmed by the mass of it. Like, fruit. Maybe if I have bags of servings of fruit in the fridge, I will more easily know how to eat fruit and know if I am consuming enough. Or with meat, I like that.

And doing recipes is in fact very difficult for me because I get so overwhelmed.

ANARIE Posts: 13,179
6/22/13 4:05 P

What do you normally eat? Do you remember what you bought the last time you shopped before you decided to change things?

People tend to be most successful if they don't try to change *everything* all at once. A good starting place is to figure out which are the healthiest choices from the meals you already like, and have those more often. Then look at other things you eat, and see if you can make them healthier. Trying new recipes and new foods can come a little later.

For example, I used to eat a lot of macaroni and cheese with smoked sausage mixed in. I also ate spaghetti with marinara sauce and turkey Italian sausage.

When I decided I had to lose weight, I realized that the spaghetti had about half as many calories as the mac&cheese, and it gave me a serving of veggies as well. I liked it just as much, if not more. I could cut hundreds of calories with no sacrifice. Later, I made it even better by switching to whole grain pasta, reducing the amount of meat, and adding mushrooms and peppers. It tasted even *better* that way. At some point down the road, I learned to make my own mac&cheese with whole grain macaroni, reduced-fat Velveeta, and spices. It had half the calories of a same-size serving of Kraft. I add veggies to it, as well. And you know what? It doesn't take any longer to make than the stuff from a box.

So the place to start is with what you already know. You know that chips and candy, etc, are junk and your body doesn't need them, so stop buying those. You know that vegetables and fruit are good for you, so buy more of those. Look at the sales flyers before you go to the store to see what veggies and other healthy foods are on special, and then google recipes or ideas for using those items. Write down meal ideas on a week-at-a-glance calendar page before you go to the store. Never put something in your cart unless you know when and how you're going to use it.

Planning out the meals before you shop is one of the most important ways to save money AND eat less. If you buy things just because they look good or they're on sale, you'll eat them because they're there and you don't want to waste them. Your brain will say, "if this spoils, I'm wasting money," but the fact is that you wasted the money already, in the store, by buying something that you didn't need.

Also, if you do find that your planning didn't work out right, eat the things that are most likely to spoil first. Plan a meal around the veggies that are starting to wilt, not around pasta or something that you have in the freezer.

And speaking of the freezer, remember that frozen vegetables are just as good as fresh, but with no waste. Until you have meal-planning down, it doesn't make sense to buy fresh broccoli that can spoil in the crisper drawer when you can spend less for a bag of the frozen stuff and it will last for months.

Googling "easy healthy cooking" or "simple healthy meal planning" might help, too. I found this page that might be useful:

Again, use the recipes and the sales flyers to plan *before* you shop, not after. That way, if any of the recipes look too hard, you can toss them out right away instead of buying the ingredients and then not being able to find an easy way to use them.

LDHAWKE SparkPoints: (19,069)
Fitness Minutes: (1,818)
Posts: 771
6/22/13 4:01 P

Previous poster, please read the original post. No offense, but your response does not help.

JULIERN06 SparkPoints: (4,351)
Fitness Minutes: (363)
Posts: 69
6/22/13 3:59 P

I buy fresh fruits and veggies twice a week and porion them all out into sandwich or snack bags. That way they are ready and easy to grab as I go out the door. It takes a little time but I have been throwing away a lot less since its easier access. I also portion out meats and freeze them in one or 2 servings. I freeze leftovers too, especially meats.

Take your time... One meal at a time. No one said you have to do it all at once! :)

LDHAWKE SparkPoints: (19,069)
Fitness Minutes: (1,818)
Posts: 771
6/22/13 3:57 P

If I am cooking at home this is what I do.

I print out the recipes I want to make. Then I make a list of items I need to buy to make the recipes. I check my pantry and refrigerator to find out if I already have those items. If I do, I cross them off my shopping list.

Then I go shopping.

And then I make the recipes.

It's really not that difficult of a thing to do.

KENDILYNN SparkPoints: (22,924)
Fitness Minutes: (24,670)
Posts: 2,738
6/22/13 3:01 P

Do you typically cook/eat at home? Maybe try just replacing two of your typical dinners this week with healthier options. That could be as easy as baked chicken tenders, instant brown rice (90 seconds in the microwave) and a microwave steamer bag of green beans. Seriously, start to finish in 15-20 minutes with very little prep. Or a big mixed salad with beans and/or chicken or shrimp for protein, dressed with a light vinaigrette. Then you can branch out to trying one new recipe at a time, and moving towards cooking more often at home as you get better. This will be less overwhelming during your learning curve.

As for your normal eating/cooking, try replacing unhealthy ingredients with healthier versions. Whole grain bread/pasta, reduced fat dairy, olive oil instead of butter/margarine, greek yogurt in place of mayo or sour cream. Even a PB&J can be a (somewhat) healthy option if you stick to a reasonable portion size on the PB, and use whole grain bread.

ERICADURR Posts: 243
6/22/13 2:47 P

I'd keep it simple for now. I'd buy some fun seasonings for your meats, get some whole wheat pasta or brown rice (my favorite) and add in a vegetable. That's the super easy way to eat healthy, but it does get old after a while. Next you should start experimenting with making your own sauces--I like to get cans of tomato paste (which are super cheap) and then adding in my own seasonings and water to make spaghetti sauce or curry sauce--two very different tastes. I make my own "white" sauce using lemon juice, a teensy bit of butter and milk, and chicken broth. You can also look for ways to modify your current recipes to be more healthy--I make killer TURKEY meatballs for my (now whole wheat) spaghetti, and if you're making your own sauce, you get rid of a lot of preservatives and bad things. If you feel overwhelmed with veggies, then keep it simple and get some canned green beans and some steamers that you can refrigerate so they keep.

Eating healthy doesn't have to be some crazy culinary endeavor. Start simple, and build on your knowledge of what you already know. Good luck!

MARISSADREAMER SparkPoints: (139)
Fitness Minutes: (0)
Posts: 13
6/22/13 2:28 P

Ok, so here is the deal. Everytime I go to the grocery store to get "healthy foods" it turns into a disaster where I spend all my money on food I throw away. I just don't know where to start. I have ZERO cooking intuition and cannot just throw foods together and have a nice meal. I have tried the SparkPeople meal plans and they just don't appeal to me (even with the substitution part) and then I tried going through recipe books and that stressed me out. Then I thought of just buying foods I like but that left me disorganized.
So I guess I am just crying for help now!

Is there a good website or something or other that I can use to get myself organized with this whole meal planning business? I want to go to the store and buy foods I know I can throw together that will be at least somewhat healthy. I fully intend to do things like have butter and mayo and cookies because I cannot live without. But I just DO NOT KNOW HOW TO DO THIS!! How do I go to the store and get healthy things to eat? I feel like this is common knowledge that I am just not getting.


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